The law requires that vehicle owners provide liability insurance coverage on their vehicles. This insurance is in place to guarantee payment for property damage or personal injuries resulting from a vehicle accident. Four separate categories of vehicle liability insurance exist:
- Choice no-fault
- Tort liability
What makes each of these coverages distinct are the limitations placed on victims’ rights to bring a lawsuit and whether or not the insurance providers will pay benefits no matter whose fault the accident is. Each state sets its own rules for the minimum coverage amount of liability insurance required.
In states that operate from a tort liability standpoint, the ability of a victim to recover funds from an at-fault driver depends on whether there is adequate insurance coverage carried on the vehicle involved. Sadly, in too many cases, there is not enough insurance protection to cover such horrific harm as spinal cord damage or traumatic brain injuries.
Uninsured Motorist Insurance Coverage
Carrying uninsured motorist coverage on an individual’s vehicle helps ensure that this person’s medical expenses and property damage costs will be paid for if there is a hit and run or the at-fault party does not have any liability insurance coverage on his or her own vehicle. In this situation, the victim could decide to file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver. If this driver happens to be wealthy, the victim may succeed in getting a personal check that will pay for all expenses from the car accident or truck accident.
However, most individuals who are wealthy usually carry sufficient insurance coverage on their assets. So, it would be likely that a person who caused an accident and did not have any insurance coverage is not the owner of substantial assets. Therefore, the most beneficial course of action in this circumstance would probably be for the victim to file a claim under his or her own policy’s uninsured motorist coverage.
In many cases, it will become clear at the scene of the accident if the at-fault driver has no liability insurance. When law enforcement arrives at the scene, they will ask for proof of coverage from each driver involved. If there is no insurance on a vehicle, the officer will usually tell the other drivers.
There is, however, the possibility that no law enforcement officer will appear to take an accident report. In such cases, all drivers should exchange personal contact and insurance information with each other. If an at-fault driver admits to having no insurance, it is advisable for the other drivers to file a claim on their own uninsured motorist coverage.
Are There Other Options?
Beyond filing an insurance claim with an at-fault driver’s insurer, there are other options for someone hurt by an uninsured/underinsured motorist. These options may include:
- Employer – If a victim is hit by an at-fault driver who is working, the employer may also be liable for damages. A commercial liability policy is likely involved.
- Business or social host – If a motorist is hit by a “visibly intoxicated” driver, the victim might be able to legally pursue compensation from the store, restaurant or bar that sold alcohol to the at-fault driver. Additionally, any social host who provides a minor with alcohol could be held liable if the minor driver causes a wreck.
Underinsured Motorist Insurance Coverage
If an individual is involved in an accident where the driver who caused the collision does not have enough liability insurance coverage to fully pay for all of the victim’s medical expenses and property damage, the victim can file a claim to have his or her own underinsured motorist coverage pay the balance. In essence, this type of coverage fills a gap between an auto accident victim’s expenses and the at-fault driver’s auto policy limits.
For instance, let’s say a car accident victim incurs $25,000 worth of medical expenses and $10,000 worth of property damage. However, the negligent driver who caused the wreck only has $10,000 worth of insurance coverage. Obviously, this driver is underinsured. Here’s where the accident victim could make a claim on his or her own underinsured motorist coverage.
It may be more difficult to determine if an at-fault driver is underinsured than it is to determine if the driver is uninsured. While the victim may be able to find out the other driver’s coverage limits, it will take some time to fully know exactly how much the victim’s total losses are. The total expenses for medical treatment, full costs for property damage, and total lost wages will not be known for a while.
If the negligent driver carries only the minimum amount of liability coverage required by the state, the victim may know right away that it will not be enough. In this case, the victim can proceed with a claim against his or her personal underinsured motorist coverage. If, however, the limit on the at-fault driver’s liability coverage is $100,000, it may take much longer to know if this amount will cover all of the victim’s expenses.
To File a Claim on Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage
Immediately upon discovering the need to file a claim on the uninsured/underinsured portion of a policy, contact your insurance right away. Some policies specify a limited amount of time to do so. Of course, the policy also specifies any limits and the kind of accidents covered.
After an auto accident victim makes a claim due to an underinsured or uninsured motorist, the insurance company will launch an investigation concerning all injuries and medical treatments. The injured driver should cooperate with the insurer, and the insurer has a responsibility to handle the claim in good faith. If an insurer chooses to use adversarial means or to unlawfully deny a claim, the insurance company may be opening itself up to a lawsuit.
Obtain Legal Assistance
The legal team at Dash Injury Law Firm has seen firsthand how it makes a difference when auto accident victims are represented by qualified attorneys when going up against insurance industry giants.
Call Dash Injury Law Firm today at 888-(DASH-LAW) or complete an online contact form for a free consultation.
- Carol DiBari. “The Other Driver Doesn’t Have Car Insurance. Now What?”, NOLO, https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/the-other-driver-doesnt-have-car-insurance-now-what.html. Accessed May 15, 2020.
- Julia Kagan. “Underinsured Motorist Coverage”, Investopedia, https://www.investopedia.com/terms/u/underinsured-motorist-coverage.asp. Accessed May 15, 2020.
- Michelle Megna. “Uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage”, Insurance.com, https://www.insurance.com/auto-insurance/coverage/uninsured-underinsured-motorist-coverage.html. Accessed May 15, 2020.